Minds Are Like Parachutes. They Work Better
When They Are Open
In the arts communities, Process is valued over Product. In other words, a working, living, flexible state of creating is favored over something that was only considered once, made, and never reconsidered.
A Closed Mind is a Product. It is a withering vessel that allows precious little in or out. It is comprised of boxes that are only filled once and afterwards are locked and abandoned.
Many things cause people to close their minds. I believe that fear is one of the factors. People who are afraid of the unknown–who are afraid of change–have a tendency to restrict the amount of data that they process.
Hurriedness is another reason that people close their minds. We live in an age of multi-tasking. The people who do the most, multi-task to do so. Multi-taskers are prone to review a matter once, make a decision, shut that door, and move on. While that might be a quick way to get things done, I feel sure that multi-taskers make many mistakes. I often question my own decisions that I made in haste, and upon further contemplation, I often discover that my hasty decisions require a second thought.
A more effective practice requires continued thinking on a matter and continual reflection. An open-minded person would revisit one’s plan time and again, and he would check and balance his behavior. Anything less is like working with blinders on. It is a fast trip to denial, where a person attempts to function with partial information. I have written several posts about denial, and I believe that anger is a cause of denial–and likewise, a reason for closing one’s mind.
When we get mad, we have a tendency to stop listening, and when we stop listening, we lose empathy, and we end our thought processes. The person in denial has the tendency to slam the door on any further consideration. Then, he throws away the key, and he never looks back again.
Healthy people can become frustrated and angry. In her book the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says that Anger can actually be a good and helpful thing. The key is that of not making it the final response. Anger should lead us to another, healthier behavior.
“Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way….” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 62.
. . .
“Anger is the firestorm that signals the death of our old life . Anger is the fuel that propels us into our new one. Anger is a tool, not a master. Anger is meant to be tapped into and drawn upon. Used properly anger is use-full.
“Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. …It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests.
“Anger is not the action itself. It is the action’s invitation.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 62-63.
Unhealthy people elect to remain stuck in anger. If a person who is stuck in anger is prone to denial, he may no longer realize that he has become stuck. Especially when anger and failed relationships are in play, I believe second or third or fifth or tenth thoughts are worthwhile. Before we throw people away, we should examine our behaviors and scrutinize them. Forgiveness may be in order. Our states of denial may be preventing us from recognizing our needs for forgiveness.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ― Mahatma Gandhi, All Men are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections
For whatever reason, a closed mind is a sad or even a dangerous thing.
Minds Are Like Parachutes. They Work Better When They Are Open!
In life and in art, process is better than product. If there is a final word, it is that there is NO final word. We never move beyond our needs to process and re-evaluate.
Have you heard the parable about the man and the rising flood? I found it Here:
“A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
“A faithful … man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”
“The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”
“As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
“The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
“The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.
A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
“Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.
“When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”
“And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”
In Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way, she speaks about Synchronicity:
A woman admits to a buried dream of acting. At dinner the next night, she sits beside a man who teaches beginning actors.
A woman is thinking about going back to school and opens her mail to find a letter requesting her application from the very school she was thinking about going to. Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63
Cameron goes on to say that we are often resistant to the acknowledgment of when synchronicity is at work in our lives.
“It’s my experience that we’re much more afraid that there might be a God that there might not be. Incidents like those happen to us, and yet we dismiss them as sheer coincidence. …
“If there is no God, or if that God is disinterested in our puny little affairs, then everything can roll along as always and we can feel quite justified in declaring certain things impossible, other things unfair. If God, or the lack of God, is responsible for the state of the world, then we can easily wax cynical and resign ourselves to apathy. What’s the use?” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63
As I began to read about synchronicity, I thought about the Parable of the Flood. In the flood scenario, a man refused to listen to several voices who were trying to save him from impending disaster, but I believe that we also refuse to listen to directives when they are simply trying to point us in the right direction or to lead the way to success. Julia Cameron says that because we feel unworthy of any help or any direction, we often dismiss these guiding lights.
“We call it coincidence. We call it luck. We call it anything but what it is–the hand of God….
“When we answer that call, when we commit to it, we set in motion the principle that C. G. Jung dubbed synchronicity, loosely defined as a fortuitous intermeshing of events. Back in the sixties, we called it serendipity.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 64.
For the past several weeks, I have been leading an Artist’s Way workshop, and I have begun to notice how that because of my attending to the ideas set out in Cameron’s book, I have begun to evolve.
Because I am actively employing some of Cameron’s ideas in my life and because I am reading and re-reading the Artist’s Way now, I am also aware of the very real possibility that some voices and some lights in regards to several of my own ideas and projects have been trying to get through to me. In exactly the way that Cameron has described, I have discounted the paths that seem to be opening before me. I have told myself: “Don’t make much of this break-through or that. It is a coincidence. You simply don’t have a good hand. You have never been dealt a decent set of cards. You never will be. Don’t gamble.”
Cameron suggests that when we are given great ideas, we can also be given the means to accomplish those ideas, but she reminds us that we must move forward:
“Ideas don’t get opening nights. Finished pays do. Start writing.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 62.
She reminds us that Joseph Campbell describes the breaks that follow as: “A thousand unseen helping hands.”
“We like to pretend it is hard to follow our heart’s desire. The truth is, it is difficult to avoid walking through the many doors that will open. …
“We say we are scared by failure, but what frightens us more is the possibility of success.
“Take a small step in the direction of a dream and watch the synchronous doors flying open.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 66.
In her Grasmere Journal, William Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy wrote that Wordsworth often sat in a crude shepherd’s hut or a writer’s hut to write. Wordsworth’s writing huts were little more than a roof and a desk that were beneath a covered shelter, and they had no walls that separated him from nature. The huts were situated in places where he had a natural view and a first-hand experience of his natural environment. Wordsworth clearly wanted to write from a place where he could directly respond to his natural setting, and his intimacy with nature allowed him to have the fodder needed to write authentically and from an immediate overflow of emotion.
Anaïs Nin also talked about writing authentically–about writing from an overflow of emotion that can result from a first-hand writing after observation.
“You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. If it seems to you that I move in a world of certitudes, you, par contre, must benefit from the great privilege of youth, which is that you move in a world of mysteries. But both must be ruled by faith.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947
Anaïs Nin recommends that writers keep a journal:
“This diary is my kief, hashish, and opium pipe. This is my drug and my vice. Instead of writing a novel, I lie back with this book and a pen, and dream, and indulge in refractions and defractions… I must relive my life in the dream. The dream is my only life. I see in the echoes and reverberations, the transfigurations which alone keep wonder pure. Otherwise all magic is lost. Otherwise life shows its deformities and the homeliness becomes rust… All matter must be fused this way through the lens of my vice or the rust of living would slow down my rhythm to a sob.”
From The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 1.
“The diary taught me that it is in the moments of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately. I learned to choose the heightened moments because they are the moments of revelation.”
From Nin’s essay “On Writing,” 1947.
“The theme of the diary is always the personal, but it does not mean only a personal story: it means a personal relationship to all things and people. The personal, if it is deep enough, becomes universal, mythical, symbolic; I never generalize, intellectualise. I see, I hear, I feel. These are my primitive elements of discovery.
Music, dance, poetry and painting are the channels for emotion. It is through them that experience penetrates our bloodstream.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947
C.S. Lewis Talks about Keeping a Journal
[About his journal after the death of his wife] “What would H. think of this terrible little notebook to which I come back and back? Are these jottings morbid? Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on think about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. Do these notes merely aggravate that side of it? Merely confirm the monotonous, treadmill march of the mind round one subject. But what am I to do? I must have some drug, and reading isn’t a strong enough drug now.”
From A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis
Joan Didion Tells Why She Writes in a Journal
Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” From “On Keeping A Notebook” – Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Franz Kafka Tells Why He Wrote in a Journal
“One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer….In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today…..” From Diaries, 1910-1923.
Susan Sontag Tells Why She Wrote in a Journal
“On Keeping a Journal. Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts — like a confidante who is deaf, dumb and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.
The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.
From a December 31st entry in her journal, as printed in Reborn.
Julia Cameron vehemently recommends journaling in a format that she calls morning pages. In reading her book the Artist’s Way, it sounds at first as though Cameron advocates morning pages as a way to leech all of the bile that has backlogged throughout one’s being, but I believe that further reading of her book reveals that Julia Cameron would agree that once we have exorcised our demons on paper, morning pages can be extended to include more than a listing of our negative qualities and our inadequacies. Morning pages are a way to dig into our deepest extremities or into the roots from which we have sprung, but morning pages are also a place that we can register ideas for future books, stories, or pieces. They are about moving beyond our roots–about growing forward.
Morning pages are also a way to celebrate the everyday, the mundane, the what’s-happening-now in our lives. Keeping a daily journal is a way to stop, look, listen, and write. Grander writing may spring from our journals later, or they may not. As in most art, the product of keeping a journal is not what counts. It is the process. As we begin to write daily, we begin to notice more of what lies around us and we expand. As we begin to journal, life becomes more meditative for us, and we learn how to live in the moment and how to write from that same moment.
On page 52 of the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron shares that she learned about mindful observation and writing from the moment from her grandmother’s letters.
” ‘The forsythia is starting and this morning I saw my first robin. . . . The roses are holding even in this heat . . . . The sumac has turned and that little maple down by the mailbox . . . . My Christmas cactus is getting ready. . . . .’
“I could imagine. Her letter made that easy. Life through grandma’s eyes was a series of small miracles: the wild tiger lilies under the cottonwoods in June; the quick lizard scooting under the gray river rock she admired for its satiny finish. Her letters clocked the seasons of the year and her life.” [p. 52]
. . .
“My grandmother was gone before I learned the lesson her letters were teaching: survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention. …
“The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 52-53.
Julia Cameron Tells Us about May Sarton’s Journal of Solitude
“In a year when a long and rewarding love affair was lurching gracelessly away from the center of her life, the writer May Sarton kept A Journal of a Solitude.
“In it, she records coming home from a particularly painful weekend with her lover. Entering her empty house, ‘I was stopped by the threshold of my study by a ray on a Korean chrysanthemum, lighting it up like a spotlight, deep red petals and Chines yellow center. . . . Seeing it was like getting a transfusion of autumn light.’
“It’s no accident that May Sarton uses the word transfusion. The loss of her lover was a wound, and in her responses to that chrysanthemum, in the act of paying attention, Sarton’s healing began.
“The reward for attention is always healing. It may begin as the healing of a particular pain–the lost lover, the sickly child, the shattered dream. But what is healed, finally, is the pain that underlies all pain: the pain that we are all, as Rilke phrases it, ‘unutterably alone.’ More than anything else, attention is an act of connection.” [Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 53]
Julia Cameron Tells How Her Writing Is Linked with Painful Experiences
“It may be different for others, but pain is what it took to teach me o pay attention. In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me. Each moment, taken alone, was always bearable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right.
. . .
“The night my mother died….A great snowy moon was rising behind the palm trees. Later that night, it floated [p. 54] above the garden, washing the cactus silver. When I think now about my mother’s death, I remember that snowy moon.
“The poet William Meredith as observed that the worst that can be said of a man is that ‘he did not pay attention.’ ”
“When I think of my grandmother, I remember her gardening…. [p. 55]
“I remember her pointing down the steep slope from the home she was about to lose, to the cottonwoods in the wash below. ‘The ponies like them for their shade,’ she said. ‘I like them because they go all silvery in their green.’ “Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 54-56.
I took this photograph of my garden during July of 2015, I had worked very hard in my garden that entire summer, and the results were magnificent. But last summer, I hardly worked at all in my garden. Poke plants dotted my lawn everywhere that I looked, and my hydrangeas withered from lack of watering. My perennials didn’t bother to lift their heads above the soil last year, and my garden was a Waste Land. Every time that I looked outside, I became part of my own natural wasteland.
Last summer, I had launched a writing group, and I was spending every available second writing and or reading about writing. I was preparing to offer a memoir writing class online, and I denied myself of the inspiration that my gardening had always been before. Even at the time, I knew that I was denying myself something that my spirit needed and that I was being excessive about something else instead.
Last summer, I went to a mindfulness workshop, and my first response to some question that was asked was that I was neglecting my garden and in doing so, I felt that I was neglecting myself. Others tried to console me by saying that my spirit simply needed the writing more, but I knew that wasn’t the case. In reality, I have a very bad habit of becoming obsessive compulsive about one thing at a time and in doing so, I forsake several other areas entirely. My life woefully needs balance.
Even though I was not working in my garden last year, I allowed my blogs’ About pages to continue to say that “I am an avid gardener.” I used that precise phrase, and today, when I saw that the blogging prompt for the day was “avid,” I chuckled and thought to myself about Julia Cameron’s words about synchronicity in her book the Artist’s Way.
A woman admits to a buried dream of acting. At dinner the next night, she sits beside a man who teaches beginning actors.
A woman is thinking about going back to school and opens her mail to find a letter requesting her application from the very school she was thinking about going to. Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63
Cameron lists several examples of times that the universe seems to reach toward people who are open to the arms of its reaching. This summer, I have already begun working in my garden again, and I have already been dealing with the ways that my lack of balance is not paying off for me. Today, the writing prompt is “avid” –something that I used to be about my garden, and today, I feel the need to talk about my own personal disconnect.
Twenty-five years ago, someone gave me a copy of the book the Artist’s Way. That someone recognized that I was a blocked creative, and she felt that the book would help me. As soon as I read the book, I recognized myself and the mistakes that I was making in terms of my own creative growth and production, and for a couple of days, I wrote morning pages–twenty-five years ago, and then, I simply quit. Too much time. Good idea but too much time. Here I am–twenty-five years later, and I am still dealing with many of the issues that I should have dealt with a quarter of a century ago.
I lead a writer’s group, and for months, I have heard various excuses that the people in my group make for not moving forward with their writing. The words of Cameron’s book have stuck with me through the years, and I realized that the people in my group would benefit from at least reading it. A few weeks ago, we began working through the chapters of Cameron’s theArtist’s Way, and I recognize that one of the reasons that I chose this book for the class is that I, too, need to actually “work” through Cameron’s program. Yet, for two weeks, I did not write the morning pages. I wrote other things, and I blogged, but for some reason, I am resisting my need to settle down, to write the morning pages, and to allow myself to begin to attack the gargantuan task of moving through some of the issues that prevent me from moving forward.
I have always been an intense person, and I have always been avid about something or another. The problem is that I often neglect something else to be obsessive about my avid interest of the day. I move through my life like a line of army tanks. Typically speaking, I charge forward. I attack, and I conquer one thing at a time. But I also hurry, and when a task seems that it will take too long, I move to a new front.
Last night, I decided that I would begin this day by slowing down and by actually beginning to master the gargantuan task of becoming more balanced and more efficient in all areas of my life. I acknowledge that this will not be a quick fix, but I have wasted twenty-five years by my failure to have done this a quarter of a century ago when I initially read Cameron’s the Artist’s Way. This morning, I wrote morning pages, and because it is a Cameron task on page 58, I listed “ten tiny changes” that I need to make in my life [my list is currently at #22]. I have vowed to slow down and to simply do what I need to do–to eat the elephant one bite at a time.
“No high jumping, please!… Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.
“Too far, too fast, and we can undo ourselves. Creative recovery is like marathon training. We want to log ten slow miles for every one fast mile. This can go against the ego’s grain. We want to be great–immediately great–but that is not how recovery works. It is an awkward, tentative, even embarrassing process. There will be many times when we won’t look good–to ourselves or anyone else. We need to stop demanding that we do. …
” ‘But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/write a play?’
“Yes. . . the same age you will if you don’t.
“So Le’ts start.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 29-30.
I have always been the arty type. I have always been “driven by passion, seized by obsession, delighted by creation, enthralled with expression, entranced by vision, diverted by daydreams, filled with emotion, fueled by compulsion, consumed with beauty, and blindsided by inspiration.” However, I have also been pulled by the non-arty desire to be popular, to be a cheerleader, and to be normal or “the same.”
Hiding in Plain Sight
by Jacki Kellum
Smiling, Joking, Dancing, Free
That’s the Social Side of Me.
Tossing kisses from my car,
Scared, Confused Alone We Are.
If you look, you will see
The Scared, Confused and Social Three.
Copyright Jacki Kellum December 17, 2015
I became a closet creative, and I lived two lives. Outwardly, I was what I felt that everyone else wanted me to be and on the inside, I was someone else–I was different–an outlier. Here is how that worked:
On one hand, there was the social Jacki–the cheerleader, Miss Personality, and Campus Favorite. On the other hand, there was the REAL me–the person whose heart followed the whippoorwill’s call deep into the caverns of the forested night. When I was a child, I was the little camper who sat, staring into the campfire, feeling its heat warming my body and sensing its flames as they danced across my eyes. I would watch the flickering until it hypnotized me and lured me into the world that was completely removed from that of anyone else around me.
When I was a child, I would listen to the wind rustling through the leaves at night, and I would watch the leaves’ dark shadows gracefully tiptoeing across my window pane. I was the type of child who would listen to the rain pattering on the roof and be moved by its rhythmic tapping. When I was a child, I would stare at the stars, simply to enjoy the patterns of their light.
In looking back, I cannot be sure that the other kids around me weren’t doing the same things that I was doing and thinking the same things that I was thinking, but I don’t believe that they were. I always felt that I was different.
Even as a child, I felt that I was different. I couldn’t help myself, but in an effort to fit in, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to seem as though I wasn’t different at all. In Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way, she said that we have logical and linear behaviors embedded within us. She says that this logical behavior is part of our survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior that makes us believe that we need to be the same.
“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous. … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.
“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What… is that?
. . .
“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.
“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.
While our logical tendencies seem to be safe, they are an enemy to creativity, and logic is the haven for the Censor. The Censor wants to scare us into editing the very life out of everything that we would otherwise like to create.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Blind Leading the Blind, Painted in 1568
Following the crowd can get us into all kinds of trouble. I am reminded of Pieter Bruegel’s painting The Blind Leading the Blind. Consider the very real possibility that the seemingly safe crowd is inching toward the edge of a cliff en masse and that each person is about to fall to his own demise. Following the crowd is not always as safe as it seems to be.
Most often, “the crowd” is in a seemingly safe pattern of circling around a merry-go-round that, while it may seem colorful and pretty, it is going nowhere new. In other words, the crowd is doing the same thing over and over again. The crowd is not forging new paths. It is not creating.
Now, consider the crowd to be a line of burned out light bulbs. Will you, simply to be the same, turn your light off, too?
I hope not. Dare to let your light shine. Dare to be different. Dare to be an outlier.
Deep Within the Pool, I See
by Jacki Kellum
Deep within the pool I see,
An outline view of me.
I smile. The water thinks me glad.
I frown. It thinks me sad.
The water has no way to know
The kind of day I’ve had.
The water has no brain to think.
It has no heart to feel
It only views my outer shell.
It looks with eyes of steel.
How very like the water are
The people passing by.
They glance at me, They never see,
They never hear me cry.
Drop a pebble in the pool.
Watch the water spin.
Best to watch the water crack
Than love the shell within.
March 30, 2017 / jackikellum / Comments Off on The Artist’s Way and Spirituality – Introduction – Quotes with Page Numbers – Julia Cameron
Thousands of years before Julia Cameron wrote the Artist’s Way, writers and thinkers had equated one’s spirit or one’s essence with the imagination.
Six hundred years before Christ was born or about 2600 years ago, Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching, which is The Book of the Way:
In Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching, the following is said:
“There are ways but the Way is uncharted “
“The secret waits for the insight”
“Those who are bound by desire See only the outward container.”
Again to the first line. “There are ways. but the Way…” can only be found from within, from the spirit.
The Artist’s Way is also about this ancient Way, and it is about much more than making art objects. It is about a lifestyle. It is about a way of living–a type of spirituality that is manifested through the imagination and a deep connection to one’s own inner self. It is a step beyond superficiality or the external and into what William Blake and other Romantic poets called the Imagination.
William Blake was an English Romantic poet who wrote during the early 1800s. In his early works, The Songs of Innocence and Experience, Blake equated the innocent lamb with the pure essence of the spiritual and childhood.
Here is William Blake’s verse about the Innocent Lamb of Childhood.
Little lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee, Gave thee life, and bid thee feed By the stream and o’er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing, woolly, bright; Gave thee such a tender voice,” Making all the vales rejoice?
William Blake’s Tyger was the embodiment of Experience or the External. The Experienced person is characterized as being insensitive and detached. William Blake associated the cynical adult with the Experience or the Tyger state.
The Tyger is described as being fierce and dreadful. Blake asks of the Tyger:
Did He who made the Lamb make Thee?
As Blake continued to write, his theories became more radical. He eventually conceived of a type of heaven and hell, and he created the character Los to be the Christ-like savior of his religion, and Los was the embodiment of the Imagination. One of Blake’s later books was titled The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
My reason for pointing all of this out is again to show that for many years, writers and thinkers have associated spirituality with the imagination.
William Blake was one of the earliest of the Romantic poets, who were a reaction against the Industrial Revolution. The Realists were in favor of Industrialism, Mechanization, Standardization, and Outwardness. The Romanticists advocated the Imagination as the savior from Industrialism and the key to Inwardness, as opposed to the outwardness iof Industrialism.In my opinion, this Romanitic Inwardness is the same a Lao Tsu’s The Way and as Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
On the very first page of the introduction to Cameron’s 1992 edition of the Artist’s Way, she quoted the Romantic poet Coleridge in the right margin. He said:
“The primary imagination I hold to be the living power.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge: 1772-1834
William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were best friends. They were both Romantic poets and wrote after William Blake did. Their writings echo those of William Blake in that they advocate feelings, sensitivity, and child-like innocence].
“Genius is the power of carrying the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge also wrote about a type of Way or inner or Spiritual direction:
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I believe that it is important to lay this framework for Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way and to acknowledge that she is not really writing anything new. Rather, she is repeating what has been said for thousands of years and by many people before her. In fact, some of the greatest features of Cameron’s book are her quotes of other people. In most cases, these quotes run along the side margins of Cameron’s own observations. Cameron collates, organizes and reiterates in digestible chunks the wisdom of many people who preceded her. Now, twenty-five years after the first publication of the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron herself is the person being quoted in other people’s books.
In the introduction to the Artist’ Way, Cameron makes it clear that her books are not merely for artists and writers. They are for:
“...artists and nonartists, painters and filmmakers and homemakers and lawyers–anyone interested in living more creatively through practicing an art; even more broadly, anyone interested in practicing the art of creative living.” p. xi the 1992 edition.
In the introduction to the Artist’s Way, Cameron speaks about our need for a God or a Great Creator; yet, she says that even atheists can benefit from her program. When Cameron speaks of God or the Great Creator, I believe that she is talking about an elite lifestyle reserved only for those people who elect to participate in it, and I believe that for some people, Cameron’s Great Creator can include the Christian concept of God:
“Many are called but few are chosen.” – the Bible – Matthew 22:
Yet, it can also include the Jewish concept of God:
“Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’ ” – The Talmud
By the same token, I do not believe that everyone who considers themselves to be Christian or Jewish has the kind of spirituality of Great Creator to which Cameron refers. Julia Cameron’s concept of the Great Creator is not limited to any specific doctrine, sect, or religious denomination. It is also rooted in the teachings of the Ancient, non Judeo Christian:
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tsu – Tao Te Ching
As we begin to study Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, we must embrace the power of what Cameron is calling The Great Creator, and I believe that essential to embracing this Creator is understanding it and if necessary in distinguishing it from a purely religious God. Again, I believe that Julia Cameron is partially speaking about what I call the Intuition. Even though he was a great scientist, Albert Einstein endorsed the power of the intuition, as he said:
“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” – Albert Einstein
Many, many times before, I have said that when I am doing my best writing and my best painting, I am not actually doing either. My intuition is doing it for me.
If you will look closely at my painting of the pink tulips, you will see a flush of hot pink within and running through the leaves. I painted these tulips from a life observation of a pot of tulips and something literally directed my hand to the pink paint and nudged me into the act of flooding it through the green leaves. Somehow, I sensed the need of the color pink, and I sensed exactly where to place the pink. After I finished the painting, I didn’t name it: Pink Tulips. I named it In the Pink, and it was because of the way that the pink actively engaged with the green.
When I painted Janis Joplin, I began thinking of the essence of Janis Joplin’s performances, and something told me to electrify her hair. When I am painting well, I don’t make decisions like these. Something within me directs me, and I call that something my Intuition, which is somehting greater than me.
I am reminded of the scripture from the Christian Bible:
4 “,,,greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4
If I were writing my parallel view of this scripture, I would say:
“Greater is He who is in me than I who am in my way.” – Jacki Kellum
This power that is within me is my Intuition.
If I were going to reduce the message of Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way into a tiny jingle, I would say that the Artist’s Way is about our need to get out of our own ways and to let that greater power within us do its job. In my opinion, writer’s block, painter’s block, and every other kind of brain freeze happens because we get in our own ways. When we try to take control of what we create, and when we don’t allow our intuitions to work through us, we get in our own ways.
In my opinion, the first step toward the Artist’s Way is to Release.
My name is Jacki Kellum. I essentially have 3 masters degrees in the arts, and I have written and created visual art since I was a very young child. Over the years, I have read Julia Cameron’s books several times, and every time that I do, I discover something new. I am currently leading a writer’s group, and we are taking a few weeks to explore the Artist’s Way together. I plan to share some of my lectures on my blog and on YouTube. I hope that you will join us.
Several years ago, I found myself wading through a set of personal trials that made my life tedious. It didn’t take long for me to find myself creatively blocked, frozen, and silent. A friend recognized my struggle and gave me Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, and gradually, my creativity was restored. Since then, Julia Cameron has written several books similar to The Artist’s Way, and I believe that most artistic people who are familiar with Cameron’s work would agree that she has made a massive contribution to people who are trying to live more mindfully, more spiritually, and more creatively. I have decided to begin a series that will explore Julia Cameron and her vast reservoir of tips for living. I’ll begin by discussing her first book The Artist’s Way:
Most of Cameron’s books are set up as a series of training sessions that are presented as weekly studies. I teach an offline writing class, and as part of that class’s agenda, we will begin to work through Cameron’s training program one week at a time. My class members are waiting for their books to arrive, and you might like to order a book and begin this program with us. My class has been assigned the reading of the Introduction to the Artist’s Way during the week of March 23, 2017, through March 30, 2017. We’ll discuss the introduction though page 24 of the book on March 30, 2017, and we’ll study Week 1 the following week. After March 30, we’ll study one week of the program each week for twelve weeks. In many ways, The Artist’s Way is a type of 12-Step Program Designed to Help You Recover Your Creativity. You are welcome to join us free online via this blog site. I strongly recommend that everyone buy their own books. Julia Cameron’s books are treasures. You will want a book to mark and highlight and to keep for reference.
Julia Cameron teaches us how to quieten our own inner critics or self-editors and to quit trying to control our own creative processes.
Julia Cameron is synonymous with the wisdom of writing morning pages. She urges all creatives, and not just writers, to write morning pages.
We’ll discuss our study of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way more during the next week. For now, I want to encourage everyone to get their own copy of The Artist’s Way and to begin preparing themselves for the learning opportunity of a lifetime.
When I am painting and when I am writing, I consider it a great day when something within myself takes over and essentially completes my project for me. This gentle urging is intuition. It is the spark that helped Michelangelo release his sculptures from a piece of rock, and it is your writer’s voice.
Yesterday, I wrote about my use of brilliant colors when I paint at jackikellum.com Here
Janis Joplin – Watercolor by Jacki Kellum
Readers commented that they admire my bravery when I paint, and I should have said that I am not the brave part of my painting team. My intuition is. When I am having a good painting day, an inward force literally takes control of my hand and urges it to dip into a little more and slash it here or a little pink and slash it there.
In the Pink – Watercolor by Jacki Kellum
If I look carefully at my painting repeatedly and squint my eyes regularly as I paint, an internal voice takes over and tells me what to do where. I merely go into auto pilot, and I allow my intuition to do the heavy lifting. When I am having a good writing day, the same thing happens with my words–they begin to write themselves.
I wrote a poem about how my intuition guides me as I write. The title of that poem is On Silver Sheets, I Sail. When I am writing my first drafts, I usually write in a stream of consciousness. I don’t stop and edit myself. I rarely correct my spelling as I writer. I simply hop on my laptop and begin typing the words that enter my mind. I love this type of writing. When I edit, however, my stream of consciousness is not at play, and I no longer enjoy writing. People who try to edit themselves too early never allow themselves to enjoy the intuition’s free ride, and they often feel that they are experiencing Writer’s Block. They are actually experiencing a type of fear that is the enemy of creativity.
Fear is the worst thing that can happen to anyone who hopes to create.
Fear prevents the painter from painting, and he forces the writer to edit himself literally to death.
Barbara de Angelis wrote an excellent treatise on Fear: [image credit Amazon]
“Imagine that you had a person in your life who followed you around twenty-four hours a day, filling you with anxiety, destroying your confidence, and discouraging you from doing the things that you wanted to do. Every time you were about to make a change or take a risk, the person would say, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. What if you fail? What if you get hurt? All kinds of things might happen if you go in that direction.’ Imagine that before each conversation you had with friends, family, or loved ones, the person would pull you aside and caution you. ‘If you open up, you might get rejected. Watch what you say! Don’t trust anyone! . . . ” Barbara De Angelis
Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night.
“It’s your fear. Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night. It talks to you, manipulates you, and tries to convince you to avoid doing or expressing anything that may cause you any kind of discomfort or involve any sort of risk. It says, ‘You can’t’ . . . and ‘You shouldn’t.,’ and it eats away at your confidence and your self-esteem. It tells you not to act, not to reach out, not to try, not to trust, not to move. It steals the life right out from under you. . . .” Barbara De Angelis
Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness.
“Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness. How does fear do that? It keeps you stuck in what’s not working. It prevents you from growing. It keeps separation between you and other people. It talks you out of your dreams. It keeps you stagnant, frozen, unable to become all you were meant to be. . . .” Barbara De Angelis
“It is fear that keeps us standing on the cliff when we know that we need to leap to the other side. But fear does more than just hold you back–it steals your aliveness, your passion, your freedom by shutting down your heart. . . .The extent to which you allow fear to control your life is the extent to which you are living as a prisoner.
I read De Angelis’s book 25 years ago, and it is undoubtedly the most inspirational of any self-help book that I have ever read. Although the book is supposedly for women, I feel that the passages about Fear are appropriate for most artists and writers. Fear is one of a creative’s most crippling forces.
After years of being muted by my own fear, I finally gained enough stamina to simply override my restraints and to create in spite of my fear. But that was a long and uphill climb.
You can read excerpts from De Angelis’s book on her Facebook Page Here
You can also read a great deal of her writing at Google Books Here
When I saw that today’s writing prompt is “Trust,” I initially thought of the song on the movie Peter Pan, You Can Fly.
“All it takes is faith and trust. Oh, and something I forgot. . . just a little bit of pixie dust. . . .
Come on everybody, here we go–Off to Neverland! . . .
There’s a Neverland waiting for you, where all your happy dreams come true,
Every dream that you dream will come true.”
I know, you are probably thinking that you simply don’t have the pixie dust, but you do. Everyone has the pixie dust that is needed for creating. It is your intuition. I am firmly convinced that a type of creative angel does lie within each of us and that as we begin the process of writing or painting or sculpting or dancing, we release that muse, and the muse takes on a life of its own. It is important to note, however, that it is through the work that we tap into the muse. In other words: “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” In regards to writing, the work of simply writing comes first, and the muse follows.
“One reason I don’t suffer Writer’s Block is that I don’t wait on the muse, I summon it at need.” – Piers Anthony
When people say that they only write when they are in the mood to write, they are missing something very important. In fact, they are cheating themselves. In writing, “the mood” or the muse evolves after we begin to write. Perpetuating the myth that we can postpone writing until we are in the mood to write is buying into a falsehood. That is why many writers advocate writing morning pages. Most people who actually succeed with their writing careers say that in order to pop the cork that is bottling all of the things that are within themselves, they must first begin to write. Gradually, the mood or the muse or the intuition takes over, and the writer is unblocked.
Writing is a spiritual practice in that people that have no spiritual path can undertake it and, as they write, they begin to wake up to a larger connection. After a while, people tend to find that there is some muse that they are connecting to. Julia Cameron
The most important decision that is necessary for every writer and every painter and every musician is that of deciding whether you really want to be an artist or not. After that, the most important step is to show up each day and begin to work at creating what you want to create.
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford
After you have committed to showing up to write each day, do the following to unlock your muse or your intuition or your artistic voice:
First, You Need to Prime Your Pump
1. Ask yourself what you are passionate about. Start there!
Initially, you might not be able to recall any of your passions. You might think that life has kicked all of the passion out of you, but you are wrong. If that were true, you wouldn’t be here, sitting in front of the computer, trying to decide what to write. You would still be vegetating in front of the television. You are still alive. Dig deeper.
2. Overcome Lethargy
Perhaps you feel that you are sinking in the quicksand of your own lethargy. Keep a canister of writing prompts handy to fight that problem, and when you are experiencing writer’s block, pull out one of those prompts and write about that.
The New York Times published a list of 500 great writing prompts Here.
Grab hold of one of those prompts and allow it to be your rope. Allow that to pull you out of your pit of lethargy.
Every morning, I try to respond to the WordPress Daily Prompt. Read how you can also do that Here. Today’s writer’s prompt is “Trust.”
3. Begin with a Quote
Often, when I see the WordPress Daily Prompt, I cannot initially think of anything to write. When a prompt is not enough to motivate me, I often turn to Google, and I do a Google search for quotes that might correlate with a word that I associate with the prompt. One morning’s WordPress Prompt was “Admire,” and I was not readily drawn to that topic. I performed two Google searches. One time I searched exactly the following words: “Quotes Admire.” The second time, I searched exactly the following words, “Quotes Admiration,” and after my searches, it was not long before I had written my own opinions about the prompt “Admire.” You can see what I wrote Here
4. Write First – Title Later
When I begin writing a piece, I refrain from titling it. In fact, I do not title anything until I finish writing the piece entirely. Titling is a Writing-Stopper. A title is like a straight jacket. If you try to title first, you limit yourself because you write trying to confine yourself to the topic of the title. Just write, let the title spring from the writing. Begin to say what you want to say and allow your writing to evolve. Then title.
5. Allow Your Intuition to Do the Heavy Lifting of Your Writing
Creating any type of art requires that a series of decisions be made by the artist: red here? more grass? less water?, etc. When the intuition is fully functioning, the artist is hardly even aware of the questions–the intuition handles the question and answer dialog. Before this can happen, however, the artist must first allow Intuition to get his foot into the door; and then, the artist must learn to trust the decisions that Intuition makes for him. Intense listening with one’s inner ear–the intuitive ear– is a vital part of sharpening one’s inner eye or his writer’s voice and thus, of extracting a piece’s inward significance. Intuition and the Inner Artist are linked. Intuition is the instinctive way that one’s inner artist views and responds to life. When a painter allows intuition to guide him, the painter himself becomes a vessel and the art flows through the vessel. The same thing is true of the writer.
Knowing why one does this or that while creating is not important–just doing is the key to becoming. Making art is an intuitive response. When writers can access the words that lie within themselves, they begin to write more authentically. When writers create from within their intuitions, they often call that writing from “The Zone,” but it is actually writing from the intuition, which a reservoir of thoughts and emotions that run deeply within each person. The secret is tapping into that reservoir. You simply have to turn off your self-editor and allow the magic to begin. And then you have to Trust the process.
6. Don’t Worry About What Everyone Else Is Thinking about Your Writing
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Other people aren’t focusing on you. Quite worrying about what they think of you. Just focus on yourself and your own goals and begin to write. Remember that you are writing to express yourself–not to express everyone else. Just talk–in plain language [Shakespearean English is out]–and say why these words are meaningful to you. People are more alike than you might think. Others will identify. Write it, they will read.
7. Write Naturally – Give Up the Idea that You Should Write Like Shakespeare
Write first. Let it flow. Just talk. Spell later. As you begin to write, don’t worry about spell check at first. Getting stumped by spelling is another Writing-Stopper. Write first–then spell check; then correct the spelling. It might even help to do the writing and editing in a Word Document and then paste it into WordPress. Whatever it takes, do it, but don’t let you editing strangle your writing.
8. Consider Recording Your Writing and Then Transcribing It
If you cannot keep your self-editor in check, allow your cell phone‘s voice recorder to help you. Just pick up your cell phone and download a voice recorder app and talk to the recorder. You can even send yourself lengthy voice messages and transcribe those. A friend of mine had a great idea for this. She said to send your message to yourself via email, and it will already be typed for you. How easy is that?
In his book Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King said that he believes “…that stories are found things, like fossils in the ground….” He added:
“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing word. The writer’s job is to…get as much of each one out of the ground [p. 163] intact as possible.
“Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.
“I lean more heavily on intuition, and have been able to do that because my books tend to be based on situation rather than story.
“I want to put a group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one_in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn’t to help them work their way free, or manipulate them to safety..but to watch what happens and then write it down.
“The situation comes first. The characters–always flat and unfeatured, to begin with–come next. …I have never demanded of a set [p. 164] of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it is something I never expected.” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of Craft, pgs. 163-65.